Local Kelantanese Dishes You Must Try – Ramadan Market in Kota Bharu Malaysia
Kelantan on the East Coast of Malaysia is a wonderful place to visit during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Muslims all over the world will fast before the biggest religious celebration of the year, the Eid al-Fitr (Hari Raya Aidilfitri).
“Festival of Breaking the Fast”, is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan. Muslims celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri at the beginning of the month of Syawal.
Muslims eagerly wait for the holy month of Ramadan in the Muslim calendar.
The nationwide month-long Ramadan Market sells all kinds of local delicacies to enjoy and savor not only by the Muslim community but by other races from different religious backgrounds and tourists.
The Kelantanese People
Kelantanese is gentle, shy people with the sweetest smiles.
If you want to experience Kelantan, the best time of the year to visit is during Ramadan.
Malaysia seems to quieten down and pause for a deep internal reflection during the holy month of Ramadan.
Best Time to Visit Kelantan during Ramadan Fasting Month in Malaysia
Ramadan is an obligatory fasting month for Muslims all over the world. During this month, Muslims abstinent from food and drink from dawn to sunset. Ramadan is not only about fasting.
It is a time for Muslims to devote themselves to worship and pray to Allah.
Restaurants and eating places appear much quieter during the day and only seem to come alive at night.
With Hari Raya around the corner, tradition dictates that shoppers are serenaded by golden evergreen Aidilfitri tunes.
If you plan to travel to the East Coast of Malaysia, this is the best time to visit Kelantan.
Hotels and resorts roll up their sleeves to dish out the best Ramadan cuisine of family favorites and even more tantalizing Malaysian delights.
You must not miss the month-long food festival where the culture, flavor, color, and aroma of Malay cuisine come to life.
Ramadan is considered one of the holiest months in the Muslim calendar and Kelantan proves to be the aptest place to enjoy fasting.
With just an hour’s flight from KL International Airport (KUL) to Sultan Ismail Petra Airport, Kelantan [KBR] is the getaway for those who are flying to this charming state.
What is Kelantanese Cuisine?
Kelantan is a land of rice and fish.
Villagers turn anchovies into Budu, a fermented fish sauce with strong Umami ingredients to make Nasi Kerabu and Nasi Tumpang.
The sardines are turned into a fish sausage known locally as Keropok Lekor.
The Unami Secrets of Kelantanese Budu
Umami is the 5th basic taste after sweet, sour, bitter and salty.
Unlike the other taste, Unami is harder to define. It is a “pleasant savory taste” and has been described as broth or meaty.
Many have described it as a savory, meaty deliciousness.
Traditionally Budu is used to produce the sought-after savory-delicious taste.
Budu is made by adding salt to anchovies at the ratio of fish to salt 3:1 and allowed to naturally ferment for at least 6 months and beyond.
Where and when to eat the best traditional Local Kelantanese Dishes?
Traditional Kelantanese food is some of the most delicious and mouth-watering Malay cuisines.
When in Kelantan, the best time to hunt down some delicious local food is at the Ramadan Markets.
First up are Nasi Kerabu, Nasi Dagang and Nasi Berlauk. These dishes are commonly eaten for breakfast in Malaysia.
Nasi Kerabu is made up of fresh, raw salads, Keropok (fish crackers), Salted Egg, blue-colored rice, Kerisik (fried grated coconut) and sambal (chili). This Nasi Kerabu features Budu a fermented fish condiment that originates from Kelantan. You can opt to have some Ayam Goreng (Fried Chicken) on the side.
Nasi Dagang is made up of sticky red glutinous rice and white rice. This is served with cooked vegetables, boiled eggs, Kerisik and a Fish Gulai. The fish used is typically Tuna fillets and gulai is thick turmeric aromatic coconut milk gravy.
Nasi Berlauk is made up of white rice, a Gulai dish, sliced cucumber, and sambal.
All three dishes are amazing and worth eating!
How does Ramadan affect me as a traveler?
Due to the multi-cultural society of Malaysia, there is no problem to find food during the day. Most non-Muslim restaurants remain open and serve food and drinks as usual.
However, in some hotels, the restaurants may close during the day. However, the hotels are happy to prepare a packed lunch for you to take out if you decided to visit the Kelantan heartland.
How do Muslims fast?
Ramadan (also sometimes spelled as Ramadan) is the month of fasting.
This means Muslims are not allowed to eat, drink or have sex from the Morning Prayer (Fajr) at dawn until the evening prayer (Maghrib).
In Malaysia, that means from about 6 am until 7.30 pm.
The early morning meal known as Sahur must be eaten before dawn, which coincides with the Morning Prayer.
Depending on where you live in the world, the time differs, and it also changes by a couple of minutes every single day.
The evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset is known as Iftar. In Malaysia, it is also known as “berbuka puasa” (literally: to open the fast).
What are the challenges of fasting?
Fasting in Malaysia is a challenge due to the hot and humid weather.
The sacrifice during the month of Ramadan is supposed to remind people of those who are less fortunate and to learn to be humble.
As non-Muslims, we are encouraged to be considerate towards Muslims during the fasting month.
Can I fast if I am not a Muslim?
Fasting is not a problem if you are not a Muslim. Most non-Muslims have successfully fasted to join the Muslim community in solidarity during the month of Ramadan.
For visitors and tourists, you can visit a mosque to join in the Dua (prayers) recited at the beginning and end of the fast to indicate and affirm the intention of the fast.
A person’s intention when fasting is to bring him/herself closer to God.
The purpose of making an intention before every deed is to remind our inner self and confirm with our verbal intention that we seek the pleasure of God in our all actions.
Why do Muslims Fast?
The sacrifice during the month of Ramadan is supposed to remind people of those who are less fortunate and to learn to be humble again.
Ramadan is a time to get together with friends and family to break the fast together in the evening.
Breaking fast with Local Kelantanese Dishes with Prayers for Iftar Meal
Mosque holds Iftar with non-Muslim visitors with a welcoming speech before a short prayer, followed by the Iftar, or the breaking of the fast.
One of the top things to do in Kelantan is to enjoy an Iftar meal with Muslims to break fast together.
Muslims Break Their Fast with Dates
Dates are easily digested, making them a quick source of energy and nutrients.
Eating dates after a long day of fasting can help the body’s blood glucose levels quickly return to normal.
When not fasting, consumption of dates before a meal will satisfy the sensation of hunger, which in turn helps to avoid overeating.
What is a Ramadan Market or Bazaar Ramadan?
Ramadan is the best time of the year when you can find the best Malay food at the Ramadan Market or Bazaar Ramadan. The Ramadan pop up stalls and food trucks are found everywhere in the country.
These evening food markets can be visited by anyone, not only Muslims.
Non-Muslim travelers must experience a Bazaar Ramadan if they visit Malaysia during the fasting month.
When are Ramadan and Hari Raya in Malaysia?
Since Ramadan and Hari Raya follows the Islamic lunar calendar, the dates will move by 11 or 12 days each year. The lunar calendar is shorter and begins when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted.
Ramadan 2020 in Malaysia will begin in the evening of Thursday, 23 April
And ends in the evening of Saturday, 23 May
Dates may vary.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Public Holiday) 24 and 25 May 2020
What’s a Ramadan Market Like?
Kelantan is a devout Muslim state deeply grounded in traditional Malay heritage. Kota Bharu has a friendly vibe of a small midsized city with excellent Ramadan Markets.
There are great opportunities to sample the superb local and traditional cuisine.
Local Kelantanese Dishes at the Ramadan Bazaar!
The Kota Bharu Ramadan Market was filled with food, smells, cooking, smoke, and lots of people shopping for dinner.
Malaysia is one of the most perfect food countries – it combines Malay, Indian and Chinese food with grilled meats and even burgers.
You can get a Roti Canai with a Dhal Curry and a hot The Tarik (Pulled Milk Tea) for RM4.00 (USD1) for a great filling delicious breakfast.
So even if you are on a budget, a USD20 will buy you plenty of delicious food and snacks.
Here is what you cannot buy or bring to a Ramadan Market
For a tourist, you need to be aware that the Islamic dietary laws prohibit the consumption of pork or products made from pork.
Alcohol is strictly forbidden.
What to buy at Ramadan Markets?
In the evenings, the streets are filled with Pasar Ramadan (Ramadan Market) street stalls selling colorful drinks, various choices of Kelantanese food, local delicacies, and freshly baked Raya treats.
Pasar Ramadan is the place where Malaysians and foreign visitors can sample a wide variety of local delicacies and join the locals for Iftar (breaking of fast).
For Malaysians, Pasar Ramadan can be found at almost every corner all over the country, offering a huge array of mouth-watering delicacies for you to break your fast with.
A visit to these colorful bazaars is a feast for the senses with all kinds of wonderful smells wafting in the air as you walk from one end to the other.
The intense sound of a sugarcane crusher, vendors beckoning you incessantly and the grilling smell from BBQ chicken, fish, and spicy meats.
For locals and tourists, the month-long Pasar Ramadan is perfect for touring the various Buka Puasa (breaking of fast) spots.
We’re talking rows and rows of stalls selling almost anything you could want – Biryani, Malaysian Lauk Pauk Rice with Dishes, fried items and fritters, Laksam, Kebabs, Fresh Fruits, Colourful drinks, Cauldrons of Fiery Curries, whole roasted chickens, lamb, and even fish.
- Most items sold are wrapped up to take away.
- Please refrain from eating your purchases in front of others as most Muslims only breaking fast at sunset.
The vendors at the Ramadan Markets are generally friendly and will explain the food to you. Some will even pose for a photo.
The stalls normally start as early as 4.00 pm, when sellers start bringing in their wares.
Local Kelantanese Dishes for Breaking Fast Iftar Meal – Must Try Food
Kelantan, which is said to translate as the “Land of Lightning”, is an agrarian state with green paddy fields, rustic fishing villages, and casuarina-lined beaches.
So it is common for the local people to fuel up on Rice (carbo) fares daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Bubur Lambuk – Mixed Porridge cooked with spices and meat
- Laksam Laksei – rice rolls with fish gravy
- Nasik Berlauk– Literally Rice with protein dish and vegetables, the protein can be one chicken, beef or fish cooked in any manner.
- Nasi Kerabu Kelantan – blue rice with meat and salad
- Nasi Dagang – a bowl of steamed rice in coconut milk, fish curry and extra ingredients such as pickled cucumber and carrots.
- Khao Yam – a Rice Salad influenced by Thailand cuisine
- Pulut Panggang – grilled sticky rice with prawns in coconut mixture.
- Pulut Pagi – a delicious mound of sticky rice either sweet or savory, topped with freshly grated coconut with fried dried salted fish.
- Ayam Percik Kelantan – BBQ chicken with a white sauce.
- Etok – a sweet delicious river clam cooked with salt and lemongrass.
- Bahulu– a type of sponge cake.
- Kueh Akok – a form of specialty sweet cake treat. This Kelantanese kuih is made from eggs, wheat flour and pandan (screw pine leaves). Akok is eaten as snacks or desserts and goes perfectly with a cup of hot teh or kopi. They’re quite light, eggy and very delicious!
Eat Local Kelantanese Dishes during Breaking Fast Iftar Meal at Ramadan Market in Kota Bharu Malaysia
I hope I’ve inspired you to eat and explore like a traveler, not a tourist.
My favorites are Nasi Kerabu, Nasi Dagang, Ayam Percik, and the delicious eggy Akok.
I remember devouring 6 Akok at one sitting right after a supper of Mee Ketam.
I completely forget my diet when I am enjoying Kelantanese cuisine!
When I travel, I want to eat where the true blue Kelantanese eat and embracing the local cultures and foods.
I must confess that I sometimes worry about food poisoning and fish bones but I assure you these fears are unfounded.
You must try eating with your hands. When you eat with your hands, the flora in the fingers is swallowed.
It is beneficial for health and various body parts such as the mouth, throat, and intestine, and it promotes healthy digestion in the gut.
As mentioned above handling food with your fingers releases digestive juices and enzymes.
Location of Ramadan Market in Kota Bharu Malaysia
- Stadium Sultan Muhammad IV Kota Bharu
- Wakaf Bahru
- Pengkalan Chepa
- Kubang Kerian
- KB Cyber Plaza
- Kok Lanas
- Pasir Mas
The Kota Bharu Ramadan Market was filled with rows and rows of food, smoke, cooking smells and lots of people shopping for dinner.
How much to spend on an Iftar Meal?
If you’re looking for a burger or kebab-style meat-stuffed flatbreads, you can get by with about USD6 each.
Tips for Dressing: Remember to dress conservatively. This means no short shorts, low scoop necklines, and sleeves see-through or figure-hugging clothes.
When you enter the vicinity of a mosque, it is proper to cover your head with a scarf.
Going to a Ramadan Market in Kota Bharu – Look out for Local Kelantanese Dishes
Kelantanese local foods at Ramadan Bazaars in Malaysia are tasty with a good selection of salads and grilled meat and fish.
We’ve picked out Ramadan bazaar classics that are delicious and must try on the East Coast.
Don’t worry about any tendency to go overboard, remember you have a month to try out these Ramadan bazaar classics.
In case you are not used to a dinner of rice or noodles, where are some dishes to go with slices of bread.
Tips to Start Your Eating Spree of Local Kelantanese Dishes at a Ramadan Market in Kota Bharu
Go early to check out the layout of the stalls. A good way is to start systematically by going row by row. The variety of local scrumptious and mouth-watering delicacies for ‘Iftar’ (breaking fast) is a great selection.
The food is delicious, affordable and tempting enough to cause overeating and overspending.
To survive the temptation, remember these Eating tips!
- Start with a budget.
- It’s very easy to break your budget is you bring your wallet with all your money for shopping. It makes sense to just bring enough to spend on bazaar food for a meal (say RM10 per person or USD2.50)
- Work up an appetite.
- Gets a good workout strolling along the aisle of bazaar? You can walk around all the stalls and make your selection later. You can burn as much as 100 calories during this stroll.
- Try one stall at a time.
- While there is a huge variety of stalls laden with delicious food, start by trying one stall or two at a time each day. If you’re here for a week, you can divide the number of stalls and break it down to the number of stalls you can try.
The first food after breaking fast at Iftar
- Iftar—a fast-breaking meal— is a daily ritual during the holy month of Ramadan. The traditional Iftar menu comprises fruits, juice, milk, dates, and water. You will see Muslims break their fast with some sips of water and a date. Dates are an immediate source of natural energy high in calories and natural sugars that help the body restore low blood glucose levels after a day of fasting. Sweetcakes like Akok, Kuih Lapis, and Seri Muka are good choices. Just be mindful of your portion of sweet carbohydrate food.
- Listen to your body.
- Eat slowly when you breaking your fast.
- Enjoy every bite and listen to your body.
- Stop eating when you are no longer feeling hungry and feel full.
- You can always have some snacks after dinner if you are hungry again.
Your waistline and wallet will thank you for it!
The tradition of Eating Local Kelantanese Dishes – Colek Ramadan Market in Kota Bharu
In Kota Bharu, after Terawih Prayers, the locals love to indulge in their favorite snack called Colek.
Kelantanese love these local dishes and snacks during Ramadan and the restaurants specializing in this delicacy is always packed after breaking fast until two or three in the morning.
Colek Ayam and Colek Buah are Kelantanese delicacies.
First, this is a huge platter of deep-fried batter mix of seafood like prawns or squid, chicken, potatoes, and dried beef. Colek Ayam is eaten with a specially-made sauce to complete the course.
This tradition of eating Colek Buah or Colek Ayam is also popular in districts like Tumpat, Pasir Mas, Rantau Panjang, and Tanah Merah.
The price of the Colek snacks varies, depending on the portion and the number of ingredients requested by the customer.
Second, the Colek Buah consists of cut mixed fruits like mango, pomelo, cucumber, guava and turnip topped with a sweet thick black sauce.
Several restaurants in Kelantan offer the very popular Maggi Ketam or Crab Instant Noodles which is cooked in a Tom yam, sweet-sour spicy soup perfumed with herbs and lemongrass.
The noodles are served in a huge pot so remember to order a small portion if you just want a sample.
What a week of eating the best Kelantanese foods!
Last, I must confess that I have fallen in love with Kelantanese cuisine and can’t wait to return Ramadan Market in Kota Bharu to try more!
Photos: Travel Stylus